In Emilia Romagna and Tuscany, lasagna is comfort food, made with layers upon layers of pasta, Ragù alla Bolognese and béchamel sauce, and an abundant dusting of grated cheese before it goes into the oven. So whenever there’s a desperate need for comfort food that calls for a drastic remedy, well, there you have it. I posted a four-cheese lasagna recipe recently that I really enjoy. Today the spotlight is for his carnivore second-cousin since we don’t play favorites on this blog. And I used spinach pasta because everything turns green in the spring, even my food. Does it counts as a green vegetable? Hmm. I let you decide.
And like all of us, dear readers, Lasagna alla Bolognese improves with age, so, if you can, make it a day ahead and refrigerate it, the flavors will meld beautifully, and then you need only to reheat it gently in the oven before serving it. Enjoy!
Spinach Lasagna Bolognese
- Serves 6
Ragù alla Bolognese recipe:
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 lb ground veal
- 5 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 carrot, finely chopped
- 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- sprig of rosemary and sprig of sage, tied together
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 3 cups red wine
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 cups San Marzano crushed tomatoes
- 1 large pinch of sugar
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 4 cups milk
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 1/2 cup grated Fontina or Robiola cheese, plus extra for top of the lasagna
Spinach pasta recipe:
- 6 ounces spinach, blanched, pressed and dried
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour or “00” flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 large pinch salt
- Semolina flour
- Grated parmesan
For the Ragu alla Bolognese:
- Heat the oil in a wide-bottomed saucepan, add the vegetables, herbs and chopped garlic, and sweat over high heat for 5 to 8 minutes without allowing it to color.
Season the meat with salt and pepper and add to the vegetables, making sure that the meat is covering the base of the pan. Leave for about 5 to 6 minutes, so that the meat seals underneath and heats through completely, before you start stirring (otherwise it will ooze protein and liquid and it will steam rather than sear)
- Stir the meat and vegetables every few minutes for about 15 minutes, until the meat starts to stick to the bottom of the pan. At this point, the meat is ready to take the wine.
Add the wine and let it reduce right down to virtually nothing, then add the tomato paste and cook for a few minutes, stirring all the time.
- Add the tomatoes, a pinch of sugar and 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil then turn down to simmer and cook for about 1 1/2 hours, adding a little extra water if necessary, until you have a thick meat sauce. Season with salt and pepper.
For the bechamel:
- In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook the mixture for about 4 minutes.
- Add the milk, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg, add the grated cheese and stir until melted and set aside until ready to use.
For the spinach pasta:
- Puree the blanched, pressed and dried spinach in a food processor (you should have about 1/2 cup puree).
- Add eggs and yolk to puree in food processor, and process until combined. Add flour and 1 large pinch of salt, and process until dough just comes together
- Transfer dough to a well-floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, 5 to 10 minutes, adding up to 2 tablespoons flour if dough is too sticky. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Cut dough into 8 pieces. Working with 1 piece at a time flatten dough into an a rectangular shape slightly thinner than the pasta machine’s widest setting. Run the dough through the pasta machine in succession to make thinner and thinner pasta sheets. Dust with flour if the dough is sticking. Store with semolina flour in between sheets to avoid sticking.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cut the pasta sheets into strips that fit into your lasagna dish. Cook the spinach pasta sheets in boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes. Drain, and cool.
To assemble the lasagna:
- Preheat oven to 350’F. Butter a 8 by 8 inches lasagna dish (or larger if you want). Spread a layer of Bolognese at the bottom (about a cup). Top with a layer of bechamel, sprinkle with grated parmesan and top and a layer of spinach pasta. Repeat alternating layers of Bolognese, bechamel, parmesan and spinach pasta until you reach the top of the dish. Finish with a layer of bechamel and the rest of the grated Fontina cheese. Place the dish on a baking tray and bake for 45 minutes, or until bubbly and golden on top. Let it rest for 10 minutes before cutting into it or let it cool, refrigerate and reheat the next day.